Don't look now, but there's a Scrutinizer in menswear and a Stroller Derby champ in the shoe department.

Two fashionable women walking carrying packages
Credit: George Marks/Stringer/Getty Images

Sort your sale coupons, lace up your walking shoes, grab a travel mug o' java, and fire up the SUV. Ladies, we're going to the mall to hit the best Black Friday stores and nab some post-Thanksgiving deals. Visa only knows what the coming hours will hold, but this much is sure: We'll all be more successful if we prepare in advance. So do a little positive imaging. Picture yourself finding a parking space before lunch. Now take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Imagine that you'll mark off every item on your list with one bold, well-planned Black Friday shopping marathon; that the holiday sweaters, electronic games, and fragrance gift sets you seek will still be in the stores when you get there; that Chick-fil-A won't run out of sweet tea and nugget meals; and that you won't run into anyone you know because who has time for more than mascara and a quick swipe of lipstick when the stores open before daylight? Even the roosters aren't awake yet.

You've already studied the sale papers and mapped out the best places for Black Friday shopping in your hometown and a tri-county surrounding area. But just as a combat general must know his foe, you need a clear sense of the Southern women you're up against. They are not all the same. To save you time and aggravation, we've put together the major profiles you're likely to encounter at the Galleria this holiday season, along with a tactical strategy for each.

  • 1. The Scrutinizer
  • She will be better dressed, coifed, and generally "done up" than the rest of us because she is meticulous by nature. She planned Baby Girl's wedding for, well, her whole life. She does not believe in speed shopping, so if she is holding the very last Lilly Pulitzer tote bag marked 75 percent off, it is pointless to hover, waiting for her to put it down. You can get to the food court, have a big cookie, and make it back before she's done.
  • Tactical Strategy: For your own sake, give her a wide berth. Trying to rush her will only make your blood pressure go up.

2. The Speed Demon
Opposite of The Scrutinizer. She sweeps in. She scans. She grabs, pays, and goes.
Tactical Strategy: Stand back. If you should get in the path of those 2-for-1 pajama sets she's gunning for, you could end up in the hospital and on the prayer list right before Christmas.

3. The Stroller Derby
These are mothers of young children who have learned to use their mega-strollers as baby vehicle, shopping cart, food court, and personal grooming station. Between the kids and everything else they have on board, they're not likely to see you before you see them.
Tactical Strategy: Mind your toes so she doesn't run over them; do that goofy smile we all make when we see cutie-pie babies; and help Little Mama reload when she drops whatever she is bound to drop because nobody can juggle all that and make it to Santa's castle for a festive holiday photo.

  • 4. The Chit-Chat Lady
  • Of all the Southern shoppers out there, this one presents the most taxing challenge to our raising. On the one hand, Chit-Chat Lady reflects some of our finest attributes as a people—namely, our natural congeniality and our flair for conversation. And yet, when we're Christmas shopping, she drives us bananas. Oblivious to the long line of weary shoppers behind her, she wants to get to know the sales rep, to ask about her family, find out whether she has children, and determine whether they have any common acquaintances. Next, she will leisurely pose questions about her coupons and her proposed purchases. She might request a phone call to a sister store or an account balance update. By then, the rest of us will be shuffling and sighing and trying to keep it together. But we always end up feeling guilty because we know good and well that Mama would say we're being rude and impatient, while Chit-Chat Lady is "just trying to be polite." (Who are we kidding? Mama might be the very one to give her a discreet little nudge with her shopping bag.)
  • Tactical Strategy: You can't rush her. You can't avoid her—not in the South anyway. About the best you can manage is—we got nothin'. Do your best. Make us proud.